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by Abigail Van Buren

Wife Can't Forgive Herself for Her Own Costly Error

DEAR ABBY: I am a woman in my 50s who has been the family "screw-up" since I was a teenager. Eighteen months ago, I screwed up in the worst way possible. Without my husband's knowledge, I started robbing Peter to pay Paul with the bills. The end result: I lost us everything (home, vehicle, etc.).

He is a good man, and he deserved so much better than what I put him through. He has said he forgives me for everything, but my problem is that I can't forgive myself.

We are divorcing now, and I'm struggling to live my life without the man I love (and who still loves me). The divorce was pushed-for right after we lost everything. His adult son paid for it, so he hasn't dropped it. He says he doesn't want to make waves because he's living in his son's guest room. I had to move back in with my dad several states away.

We talk daily, but I am still incredibly depressed. I have found a job near where I live now, but I have no medical benefits, so therapy is out of the question (and so is everything else I need to take care of my health). I have worked with mental health patients my whole adult life, so I recognize the symptoms (I have to force myself to perform personal hygiene, I sleep whenever I'm not at work, etc.).

Abby, I don't know what to do anymore. There are days when I don't know why I bother continuing on. I feel like I don't deserve to live after what I did to my husband. There is no way I will ever be able to give him back everything I caused him to lose, and that knowledge haunts me every minute of every day. How does someone learn to forgive themselves? -- FOREVER THE SCREW-UP

DEAR FOREVER: There are options available for individuals who have little or no money and need help with their mental health. I researched what might be available in your community and found there is a university with a department of psychological services. Contact it and inquire if someone in that department might be able to help you. There is also the option of the County Department of Mental Health.

Once you are stable again, you can begin to work on forgiving yourself. The problem with being labeled a "screw-up" as a teenager is that once the idea is embedded, it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Start there.